What Exactly Is A Casual Friendship & What You’re Missing Out On
Updated: Mar 16
What Exactly is a Casual Friendship & What You’re Missing Out On
With isolation becoming a public health issue, it may seem like the community is destined to get lonelier and lonelier.
People are in more need than ever of meaningful relationships, and yet they’re becoming harder to find. But there is a silver lining to the New Normal. New ways of socializing are emerging, and out of the restrictions of COVID-19 come workarounds that are quickly proving to be more beneficial than old ways.
As we learn more and more about the value of casual relationships, it’s only a matter of time before these new approaches to socializing, and the increased well-being that stem from them, become commonplace. Here, we’re going to look at why these relationships are so important, and what you can do to find them.
The Role of Friendships in Adulthood and Why They’re so Hard to Find
Friendships at any age provide an emotional and social anchor that directs a person’s well-being. As social creatures, we’re inherently in need of not only knowing, but being known. Friendships relate to a longer life expectancy, better physical health, and a counter to the feelings of isolation that arise as people mature, and life becomes less social.
There are a few reasons why making and keeping friends seems to get harder as we grow older. The most obvious one is time. At school, we’re united with our peers in an environment that promotes sociality. Lessons and break times both represent shared experiences that allow people to bond with one another. These external, mutual experiences are the key to forming friendships, and as we get older, finding them becomes an active, rather than a passive pursuit.
Some people also grow more defensive with age, perhaps as a result of being let down in the past, or neither otherwise hurt; it can take people a lot longer to let their guard down than when they were relatively carefree. Social pain affects the brain in the same way as physical pain, so it’s not unreasonable that we shy away from social closeness as we experience more of it.
And yet, chronic loneliness is reaching epidemic proportions. It’s thought that this condition is as bad for your health as a daily smoking habit. So, why aren’t we doing anything about it? Well, as we mentioned, it’s hard to find the time and venue to build relationships, and many of us are out of practice. But there are some solutions, available, and at least one of them involves changing the definition of friendship.
Back in school, many kids have best friends. Sometimes this accolade would even change hands multiple times! Friendships were closer, more intimate, and involved countless hours together, day after day.
While this kind of friendship is still a valid aspiration, it’s not the be-all and end-all of friendships. Setting your expectations slightly differently can pave the way for countless opportunities to make more relaxed, less committed forms of friendships, with casual friends.
The Meaning and Benefits of a Casual Friendship
A casual friendship is a sort of low-expectations kind of arrangement between people who like one another. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t committed; in fact, they can be just as reliable and open as any other kind of friend. It’s simply a more suitable arrangement for people who live busy lives and don’t have the resources to push for something more full-time.
Casual friends make time when there is time, and meet up when they can. But there’s no pressure to create space where there is none. Everyone involved knows that each other is busy, and they’re compassionate about it. The only thing that casual friends expect is that when you’re together, it’s meaningful.
While the strong ties of a close network are still important, the weaker ties of casual friends can be a huge contributor to the social needs of any individual. In fact, casual friendships can be even more valuable in a lot of ways.
Consider the high expectations of what we’ll call deep friendships. Spending a significant amount of time around these people means there needs to be a lot in common, significant chemistry, and a high expectation that they can be relied upon when and where necessary.
On the other hand, casual friendships don’t need to be as close-fitting. As such, it’s possible to accommodate a much more diverse group, since their nagging differences never get a chance to become annoyances or even deal-breakers. This exposes you to a wider set of perspectives, ideas, and opportunities, and can form a very rich and fulfilling social network.
Essentially, casual friendships can go a long way to avoiding the social echo chamber, in which people typically agree with one another, and different perspectives aren’t humored.
While all this sounds good, it still doesn’t address the problem of how to actually find and keep these relationships. So, let’s talk about it.
Making and Keeping Casual Friends
If anything, the pandemic pushed more of us into online communications than ever before, and rather than considering this a form of forced isolation, it’s possible to leverage this to your advantage and make more friendships this way.
The online communications network has never been more diverse and accessible than post-pandemic, and online communities are thriving, even among those who are friends in real life. Online book clubs, game nights, and virtual meetups are all becoming part of people’s social lives, and this opens up more chances for people to form and maintain a network of casual friends.
By embracing the power of the online world, you can facilitate real-world meetups with the friends you find online. Apps like PlanOut help to create that elusive external pressure that brings people together under a shared experience. Apps can help you filter through the crowds to find people you’re interested in.
Once you’ve found them, here are some tips for keeping them:
Keep it casual – First of all, this should be an easy one. Don’t press too hard, and don’t give too much too soon. While friendships can become more serious over time, the expectation going in should be one of a relaxed and friendly environment.
Check in – That said, check in with your friends when you can. Keep the connections warm, and try to show that you’ve paid attention. Hit them up when they’re back from a holiday to ask them how it went and keep a calendar of special dates like birthdays.
Contribute – If you find out something they might like, keep a note of it. You don’t need to go hunting to provide them with information, but whenever you come across something relevant, send it over with a quick greeting.
Let it flow – Again, this is a low-pressure environment, so allow things to come and go; as long as you’re doing the right thing by people, you’ll find the relationships that stick are the ones that were meant to.
While it may seem that the world is becoming lonelier by the minute, there are some significant changes in the way people socialize, that, once embraced, can very readily solve the issue of a dwindling supply of friends.
Casual ties between friends allow for a more diverse group of interests and a new set of learnable perspectives in a low-pressure environment. Social apps are the future of reaching out, and can help you find these ties; allowing you to fit your socializing around your busy schedule and fill the gaps in your network.
So, if you’re not on board already, it’s time to jump in!